The education of the child is the focus at George Meade School, where learning is not just limited to academics.

“My experience at Meade has been good,” seventh-grader Qamar Hunt. “The program and teachers are what makes this school.

“I participate in orchestra and the playwriting program. In orchestra, I play the violin. In the past, I played the cello and viola. I also like the playwrights program, because we able to write our own plays from scratch,” Hunt added.

Located at 1600 N. 18th St., Meade is a K-8 school whose mission is to have its nearly 400 students think critically, ask questions, solve problems and communicate effectively through written and oral expression.

“We have a renewed commitment to a structured balanced literacy block in K-8 with an intense focus on K-3,” said principal Raqueebah Burch. “We want to bring all readers up to speed by the time they hit third grade.

“This falls under Dr. Hite’s action plan 3.0. It is a commitment for our school in response to our achievement data,” she said about the school system’s superintendent, William Hite.

“Our achievement data told us that we have deficiencies around literacy and reading in those early literacy skills,” Burch added. “We’ve done a lot to support our literacy efforts. We’ve recruited new teachers, this school year.

“Our focus and commitment is around making sure that we are assessing kids. We know where they are and that we want to continue to monitor them frequently and just expose them to quality instruction at the classroom level first and also extending that out into the community,” she said.

To continue to promote the foundation for literacy, Meade received an Innovative Approaches for Literacy grant, which provided Meade with 40 iPad computer tablets.

Students in kindergarten to second grade use the devices, along with a complementary an app from the Free Library of Philadelphia, to look at books online and do other tasks.

The school also started a literacy assembly that highlights a different grade each month. The first assembly was held in December, where Burch read a story to the students. There was also a holiday-themed play by second-grade students in Shain Grady’s class.

“I talked about Hanukkah, which is celebrated for eight days during the literacy assembly,” second-grader Erica Satterwhite said the Jewish holiday.

“It only took us two days to practice for the assembly. Ms. Grady did a good job of helping us prepare for our performance. We practiced on the stage in the auditorium and practiced our lines. I love to read, especially fairy tale books,” she added.

For second-grader Nyree Ellis, reading different books allows him to learn about new things.

“Reading is a lot of fun,” Ellis said. “You get to learn about so many different things. You can also travel to different places by just reading a book. There’s really nothing like reading a good book.”

Grady said literacy and comprehension were a huge part of what her second-grade students were learning this year.

“My lessons are based on the common core standards,” Grady said. “My students will be learning comprehension skills, cause and effect, and making connections. Our big thing, this year, is independent reading. We’re trying to get the kids to have a love for reading. We really focus on making cross-curriculum lessons.”

One of the most popular programs among the middle school students at Meade is the Philadelphia Young Playwright program, which is offered twice a week. The program is geared toward fifth- to seventh-grade students, who get an opportunity to write and perform their plays.

In the past, Meade has won numerous awards for plays written by its students.

“The students are currently working on writing monologues,” said teacher Lori Odum. “They learned what a monologue is and in that they were given opportunities to choose topics and to develop a character, so that their voice can be heard through that character in a monologue.

“Each student will have the opportunity to write their own play or they have the option of teaming up with a partner or even a small group to develop a play,” she said.

“In our school, all plays get to be seen during what we call a mini festival,” she added. “All of the plays are submitted into a competition through the Philadelphia Young Playwright program. They have the judges read all of the plays and put them into categories. Our kids have a whole lot to say and this program gives them that opportunity.”

For seventh-grader Tracee Jones being in the playwright program allows her to be creative.

“I always liked acting, so I thought it would be fun to write something that someone else can act out,” Jones said. “I’ve learned what a monologue is and how to make plays sound more realistic instead of the characters sounding like robots. I learned how to add humor and seriousness into the characters. I really like this program; I’ve been in it since the fifth-grade.”

Another student who likes the playwright program is seventh-grader Kadir Howzell.

“The playwriting program has been a lot of fun,” Howzell said. “Ms. Odum has been doing a great job of bringing out the best from us creativity wise.”

chill@phillytrib.com

(215) 893-5716

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